Thank you Suzanne Wright, Architect of the Community of Hope
August 2, 2016 by autismsciencefoundation
By Alison Singer
I tend to judge people based on how nice they are to my daughter Jodie. It’s amazing how many people dismiss Jodie, ignore her or barely tolerate her because of her severe autism. But no one was ever nicer to her than Suzanne Wright. There was a time when I saw Suzanne almost every day, and almost every day she would ask about Jodie. When I didn’t see her, she’d email me to ask “Did she sleep?”, “How did it go with the new para?”, “Did she try the apricots?”. She knew all the details of her therapy, her schooling, even her clothing and food preferences. If she saw a toy she thought Jodie would like, she sent it to her. Her questions were never the perfunctory “How’s Jodie?” She genuinely cared. And she cared about everyone’s child at this deep level. At Autism Speaks, at all the walks, wherever she went, she knew every child’s name, age, birthday, and favorite color. Her memory was astonishing.
This is why I have always found it odd when people criticized Suzanne for not caring about people with autism, when nothing could be further from the truth. She, and I, have both said things we wish we could rephrase, but never with malice, and always with the hope of helping others understand that they were not alone in their feelings, whatever those feelings were. Suzanne devoted the best years of her life to building autism awareness, creating a compassionate community, and turning a community of heartbreak into a community of hope. She designed the now ubiquitous blue puzzle piece and made “autism” a household word. She focused not only on the children with autism but on their whole family, especially siblings. I remember one afternoon she took her grandson and my daughter Lauren, the so called “forgotten” children, to the circus so that they could have a special afternoon away from the “parade of therapists”.
Suzanne’s tremendous presence, her work and her spirit have made an indelible impression on those fortunate enough to have known and worked with her. I know I will think of her often, and will try to emulate her extraordinary compassion, though I know I will never come close. All I can do is thank her for loving my daughter, and all our children, and thank her family for sharing her with our community.